Organising an English ceilidh or barn dance - FAQs

Some information which we hope will be of use to anyone running a ceilidh or planning an event which involves a ceilidh.

If you have any questions which are not adressed here please feel free to contact us – we’re happy to offer advice even if you’re not ready to book a band for your event yet or are just considering the idea of having a ceilidh.

What is a ceilidh?

A ceilidh (pronounced 'kay-lee') involves simple folk dancing, done in groups, to lively music from a band.

At an English Ceilidh (or 'barn dance'), which is what we play for, there is always a caller who teaches each dance before the music starts, and continues to remind the dancers of each move throughout the dance while the band plays. No one is expected to know the dances already, the caller makes sure everyone knows what to do.

(There are also Scottish Ceilidhs and Irish Ceilis, where you might be expected to know the dances already and there may not be a caller, but that's not what we do.)

What kind of events are ceilidhs good for?

Ceilidhs are often held at social events including:

  • birthday parties
  • wedding and civil partnership receptions
  • conferences or dinners
  • club or society social events
  • retirement parties
  • anniversary parties

Really they're great for any event where (at least some of) the guests will want to get up and have a go and enjoy themselves!

Why do ceilidhs make good entertainment?

Apart from just being good fun:

As most ceilidh dances are done in groups, ceilidhs are particularly good for helping people who don’t know each other to mix in an informal way. This is particularly useful for events where different groups of friends, relatives or colleagues are invited.

Ceilidhs are also great for entertaining audiences of mixed age groups as everyone can join in and enjoy the dancing and music, and no previous dancing experience is required. It doesn't matter about getting it "right", the main thing is to have fun doing it!

The music is always at a comfortable volume level, so any guests who aren't dancing can still sit and talk to each other even when the band is playing.

Finally, a live band and dancing always makes for a memorable event!

How long do you play for?

For evenings where the ceilidh is the main event (e.g. birthday parties, social evenings) we usually play for around three hours with an interval in the middle, during which food is served at some events.

For wedding receptions we usually play for between two and three hours, usually with an interval, during which a buffet or other food is often served.

Sometimes for weddings and birthday parties, we play for the first part of the evening and then a DJ or an iPod disco takes over afterwards (either for the second half of the evening after the interval/buffet, or just for the last hour or so until the bar closes).

For a conference or similar function where the main event is a dinner, sometimes the ceilidh will be for 60-90 minutes as the after-dinner entertainment, depending on the schedule for the event.

The above is just a guide to give you an idea of what, in our experience, usually happens at ceilidhs - we’re happy to fit in with your event in whatever way is most suitable and offer advice if you wish.

Our guests haven't done any ceilidh dancing before, does it matter?

No, no-one needs to have done ceilidh dancing before to be able to join in.

We always bring a caller who encourages the audience onto the floor, walks the audience through the dances before the music starts and continues to call the dance while the music is playing.

The caller will select dances to suit the audience and, unless we’re told otherwise, we assume that most or all of the guests will be new to ceilidh dancing.

Although in most ceilidh dances you're dancing "with" someone, it's normal to dance with different people throughout the evening, so you don't have to be there with a partner to join in and you don't have to only dance with people of the opposite sex.

The logistical bits: what is needed for a ceilidh?

Apart from an enthusiastic audience…

  • Space for the audience to dance in: this can be anything from a large hall to a small(ish) hotel function room.
  • Space for the band to stand in. This does not have to be a stage but it will need to be large enough for four people, instruments and a couple of mic stands.
  • At least two safe 13-amp sockets near the area where we will be playing (there are usually plenty in most buildings).
  • Time for us to unload and set up the PA and soundcheck the band before the event starts. We arrive at least 45 minutes before the event is due to begin, and start setting up as soon as it is convenient. We like to allow a minimum of 30 minutes for set up and soundcheck. It takes around 20 minutes for us to pack down the PA at the end of the ceilidh.

Can we play our recorded music through your PA?

We can plug in a iPod (or similar device), laptop or mobile phone to play background music during the interval or a 'first dance' track at weddings. If you want to use a CD, please let us know in advance if you need us to bring a CD player.

Some hotel venues will also have their own built-in sound systems which can be used for recorded music.

We bring our own iPod with us for background music during the interval if we aren't given any other recorded music to use.

Can we borrow your PA for a disco after the ceilidh?

For a small additional charge we can hire out our PA for you to play your own prepared playlist from an iPod, laptop or mobile phone after the ceilidh has finished. Please ask if you might be interested in doing this.


PAT testing and insurance

Our PA system is PAT tested annually and we hold Public Liability Insurance for a value of £5,000,000. If your event is being held in a hotel the venue may require any band you book to have these.